How Buy-Side Platforms Are Fighting Online Ad Fraud

buyside-botnetOnline ad fraud bubbled up in a big way last month, after London-based published details of a botnet responsible for generating billions of illegitimate impressions per month.

The sites that are selling allegedly non-viewable impressions from the Chameleon botnet are not widely recognized brands. Reports have identified Alphabird and DigiMogul as among the site networks benefitting from such practices. Given the relative anonymity of such sites, it’s easy for the agencies and demand-side platforms [DSPs] to look the other way, especially if ad placements on such properties appear to be performing – via clicks, false roll-overs, or other counterfeited engagement metrics. (Transactions are harder to fake.)

While the blame for illegitimate impressions has tended to fall to these publishers and their exchange partners, many feel marketers, agencies, and platforms on the demand-side also have responsibility to police the ecosystem. Integral Ad Science CTO Will Luttrell argued the point in an AdExchanger column last week. The Ghostery browser plug-in reveals dozens of tags from buy-side platforms on one of the websites linked to the Chameleon botnet. Aren’t these companies concerned they will end up pushing ads to such properties?

The short answer most will give: Of course they’re concerned. But some are more eager to talk about it than others.

Among several companies contacted by AdExchanger, DataXu and Turn replied with details of their policies and mechanisms to protect against fraudulent impressions.

“At DataXu, we’re aware of this situation and others like it, and have been proactively working to clean our supply chain and build our forensics capabilities from day one,” says Adrian Tompsett, the Boston-based firm’s VP Business Development. “We take these types of issues very seriously and are extremely vigilant about policing our supply chain.”

Tompsett says DataXu’s approach is multi-layered, including monitoring publisher quality through a manual review process while also using brand safety and contextual filtering vendors to ensure domain and URL integrity.

“Ultimately, the end game for our clients is about marketing effectiveness, and this concerted and specific effort by DataXu ensures better media for our brands every day,” he says.

Joshua Koran, SVP of product management at Turn, says advertisers are the ultimate victims of click fraud. He pins the responsibility on publishers and their yield partners, but acknowledges DSPs and marketers must insist on quality. To that end, Turn has a ‘three strikes’ policy to ensure publishers operate in accordance with its inventory guidelines.

“As a technology platform that supports thousands of advertisers, we’re actively working with the publisher side to ensure they appropriately vet the inventory they offer up for sale,” he says.

Two other DSPs, MediaMath and [X+1], did not get back to us.

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